Home | Bird Species Profiles | Goffin’s Cockatoo (Cacatua goffini): The Natural History and Captive Care of a Popular but Little-Studied Psittacine

Goffin’s Cockatoo (Cacatua goffini): The Natural History and Captive Care of a Popular but Little-Studied Psittacine


Despite its status as one of the most frequently kept cockatoos, this Indonesian native remains something of a mystery in the wild. The Goffin’s cockatoo is, in fact, in somewhat of an unusual situation – being at once bred in huge numbers in captivity and yet likely endangered in the wild. Today we’ll take a look at what little is known about its natural behaviors.

Order: Psittaciformes (the parrots)

Family: Cacatuidae (the cockatoos). Twenty one species of cockatoo have been described, 11 of which are confined to Australia. The remainder inhabit New Guinea and nearby islands.

Physical Description
Average size: At 13 inches, this is one of the smaller cockatoos.

Smallest Cockatoo: The cockatiel, Nymphicus hollandicus (please see my article The Cockatiel: Facts about the World’s Smallest Cockatoo)

Largest Cockatoo: The massive palm cockatoo, Probosciger aterrimus, reaches 29 inches in length (please see my article, Hand Rearing Palm Cockatoos)

The impression is, in my opinion, one of muted beauty – the overall white color of the Goffin’s cockatoo is set off by salmon-pink splashes at the lores (area between the eye and bill) and at the bases of the head feathers. The ear coverlets and underside of the tail and flight feathers are subtly tinged with yellow. The head crest is comparatively small.

Goffin’s cockatoos are limited in distribution to Indonesia’s Tanimbar Islands, in the Banda Sea (between New Guinea, Australia and Timor). It has been introduced to Tual (Kai Islands, Indonesia) and to Singapore.

Coastal lowland primary and secondary forests and agricultural areas.

Status in the Wild
Goffin’s cockatoo is, along with 4 other species, listed on Appendix I of CITES. Populations have long been in decline due to the effects of logging, which destroys nesting sites and brings nestlings within reach of collectors. The World Parrot Trust has, on occasion, purchased illegally-captured birds for return to the wild, but concrete conservation action is otherwise in short supply.

Their exact status remains unknown, but it is believed that there are far more captive than wild Goffin’s cockatoos.

Fruits, berries, flower buds and blossoms and nuts. Field reports indicate that they may consume insects at times. Goffin’s cockatoos occasionally raid corn fields, but the species is not considered a major agricultural pest.

Very little is known of the specifics of breeding in nature. Pairs mate for life, and produce 2-3 eggs per clutch. The weather in the Goffin’s natural habitat fluctuates wildly between very dry and very wet, and they seem able to breed year-round, whenever suitable conditions prevail.

The eggs are laid in a tree hollow, and are incubated for 28-30 days. The chicks remain in the nest for 8 weeks or so, after which they may forage as a small flock with the parents for some time.

Sexual maturity is reached in 2-3 years, but most do not breed until age 5-7.

Wild birds seem not to survive longer than 20 years or so, but captives routinely reach age 40, occasionally age 60-70.

Goffin’s cockatoos are extremely cautious in the wild, staying to taller trees and flying off at the slightest hint of danger. They are most often observed in pairs or small family groups of 3-10 birds.


Conservation-oriented information concerning this cockatoo is posted on the web site of the Committee on the International Trade in Endangered Species (note: the range CITES lists for this bird is more extensive than that which is generally accepted by ornithologists):

Image referenced from Wikipedia Commons: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Goffin.jpg

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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